Summer is most definitely here, as the animals at Taronga can attest! It has become so easy to rely on air conditioning at home, but before turning on that AC, Emma Prineas has some suggestions on how to beat the heat in each room of the house.
Don’t let hot nights keep you from sleeping soundly. Lightweight cotton sheets will keep you cool in the summer, as the fabric is more breathable than synthetics. Choosing a light colour rather than a dark shade will keep the heat to a minimum as well. On super hot nights, pop your sheets in the freezer (in a bag of course) for a few minutes before bed. Or freeze a hot water bottle or ice pack (sports or otherwise), then take it out of the freezer and wrap it in a pillowcase to cuddle while you sleep. Some people swear by Egyptian cotton for sheets* but it’s not just cotton that the Egyptians have got right. The “Egyptian method” of cooling down in the heat is to dampen your top sheet in cool water before cuddling up under it. Add a buckwheat pillow under your head for comfort and you’re ready to slumber.
Putting talcum powder on the sheets is one of those old fashioned remedies – try it and see. If you have fabric curtains, let the ends sit in a bucket of water, and cool down as the breeze pushes the cold air into the room. If you’ve got a fan, put a block of ice in front of it and voila! And sorry guys, but as we all know, sleeping alone is far cooler than sharing your bed!
The living room
Keep the cool in by shutting all the doors and windows, and closing the drapes of curtains. This will keep the cool air in, rather than allowing the room to heat up. When the sun goes down and the night has dropped the temperature a little, you can open them up again and you’ll be the coolest cat on the street.
Using a fan? If it’s cooled down outside, pop the fan facing away from you. This will draw out the heat, and pull in the cooler air. And of course, turn off the lights (and any other electricals) whenever you can, as these are tiny little heat packs! In the long term, plan to replace the lights in key rooms with LEDs, which give off far less heat. If it’s scorching, hang a damp sheet in front of your window, and the breeze will push cooled air into the room.
Cold showers are an obvious choice (with a load of benefits), but a fully clothed cold shower on the hottest of hot days will bring your core temperature right down. And for those who can stand it, a cooling bath will do the trick.
While you’re in there, grab a face washer, dampen it and keep on you all day, cooling your forehead or the back of your neck when you need it. You could even dampen fabric bracelets to keep your pulse points cool.
We all know it – keep that oven off in the summer. A working oven, open or closed, will warm the entire house up, and who wants a hot meal in summer anyway. Ditto for the stove: don’t plan on boiling up any potatoes! Your body generates more heat with a big meal, so stick to light, room temperature foods. Think of cooling summer soups like gazpacho or chilled cucumber soup.
There’s debate as to whether hot or cold drinks cool you down more. In days gone by, the British would drink hot tea in the colonies, causing them to sweat and thus bring their body temperatures down. Similarly, you’ll often find soup on Caribbean menus. And if you can’t live without your espresso in the morning but the heat is just too much? Freeze it and enjoy a coffee iceblock for breakfast.
*actually, not today’s topic, but you need to be careful with actual Egyptian cotton due to reports of child labour in the Egyptian cotton industry.